Learning Targets and Success Criteria

I haven’t written a blog post since November and feel like I’ve been in a funk. I feel like I haven’t had anything to say or contribute, and the longer I stay away from posting, the harder I feel it is to get back into it. But this weekend, registration for Twitter Math Camp opened for individuals who have attended in the past (it will open for everyone else on 2/22!), and this was just the kick I needed to write again…

After winter break, our district had a half day of professional development, where each school heard a presentation from the principal on “Learning Targets and Success Criteria.” We were encouraged to read this chapter from “Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom” before the presentation. The presentation was followed by department break-out sessions to discuss the topic in more depth.

Our district leadership has requested that all teachers post and share with students the “Learning Targets” and “Success Criteria” for each day’s lesson. They may be posted on a white board for the entire class, or teachers can choose to project them sometime during the lesson. The key is that they are discussed with students and referred to throughout the lesson. “Learning Targets” are basically the same thing as objectives. “Success Criteria” provide the student with strategies for assessing their work. The goal is for students to be able to explain WHAT they are learning and HOW they know if they are being successful or not. The target does not have to change every day. In my Algebra 2 example below, I planned to keep that target up for two weeks while students learned how to solve quadratic equations by factoring, using the quadratic formula, and completing the square.

I have mixed feelings about this, as do many teachers at my school. Many feel that this is just another initiative that will disappear in a few years. And that it’s an awful lot of work to write each day. Myself, I really struggled with the language of the targets vs. the criteria.
Target & Critera 1

I originally posted mine as “I can…” followed by “I will…” But I saw other teachers posting it the reverse way: “I will be able to…” followed by “If I can…” and the wording really bothered me. If I have to do this every day, I need to be able to work with it. One of my colleagues suggested that I write ALL statements starting with “I can…” and this now really makes a lot of sense to me.
Target & Criteria 2

The target is the big picture; what can students do at the end of the lesson? The success criteria is the target broken down into manageable chunks so that students can see where they are in the process. It makes sense that both of these are written as “I can” lists for students to mentally (or physically because I hand out a target list at the beginning of each unit) check off.

So, we’ll see how this goes. Not sure if I’ll notice any changes in students’ understanding based on this required change, but it will definitely be a constant presence in my lesson planning now. If you have any experience with writing learning targets and/or success criteria, I’d love to hear from you!

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3 thoughts on “Learning Targets and Success Criteria

  1. Heather,

    My school started “requesting” these also. I too am having difficulty with the language, but I think for different reasons. I tend to teach by inquiry and discovery, and having a direct learning target on the board feels to me like taking away the discovery and the gift of finding out what relationships are. I have settled for putting inquiry questions on the board for my students, but I know that my administration is going to require me to put the direct language at some point.

    I have also wondered if this is a passing phase, and haven’t seen any better understanding from my students, even with asking them to conjecture about the questions and what we might be exploring. Who knows, maybe they will surprise me at the end of the year?

    Good luck with this.
    Teri Ryan

  2. This feels like an initiative that is well-meaning but kind of shallow. My problem with this kind of daily detail is that it seems to partition knowledge and skills into tiny little portions that do not all flow together. I am constantly fighting my students who want to partition their math knowledge this way. One of my major goals is to try and get across the idea that our math knowledge flows together from unit to unit and even from year to year. It feels like this kind of daily identification of skills and goals would work against that.

  3. How did this work for you? Did students eventually begin to self monitor? Have you come up with any fresh ideas on thus? My district is doing Visible Learning initiative and I came across your post when searching for ways to make this a reality in my high school math classes.

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